Saturday, February 02, 2008 

10 years of not much.

Yesterday was the periodic time when the few remaining Blairites that haven't been told to go forth and multiply attempted to yet again move the "debate" their way. Reports the Grauniad:

Labour modernisers, with the support of a group of cabinet ministers, will today press Gordon Brown to offer a radical reform programme, warning Labour is now engaged in a serious fight for the centre ground with a new, more socially liberal Tory party.


A statement drawn up by the Progress thinktank goes on to address one of the key questions for Labour since Brown took over, that of the legacy of Tony Blair. It urges "a future agenda which is post-Blair, not anti-Blair; building on the achievements of the past decade, not running away from them".
It warns the party it cannot win the next election based on its previous tactics, because the Tory party has changed. "The public no longer view the Conservatives as the 'nasty party' of the 1990s. We are now engaged in a serious fight for the centre ground with a party which is socially more liberal and constantly engaging in counter-intuitive positioning."

This is naturally supported by the most delightful of the Blairite clique: Hazel Blears, Tessa Jowell, James Purnell, Alan Milburn and Ed Miliband.

As ever, they've got the wrong end of the stick. It's not that Tory party has changed; you only have to read the rantings of some of them on certain blogs, or the report which John Redwood helmed to realise that. Instead, the Conservatives have simply decided that they'd like to win again. This has involved dressing themselves up in New Labour's not centrist, but centre-right clothes. When the Tories have gone occasionally further towards the right, Labour has then said, oh, that's just what we were about to do! Inheritance tax? Terrible thing, having to pay it when you die after paying it all your life as well, we'll raise the threshold too. Easier stop and search powers for the police? Why, that's just what our former copper doing a review is going to suggest!

The other main reason that the polls have turned is that New Labour is obsessed more than anything else with winning the next election and forgetting they're actually meant to be governing before that happens. If there's one thing that has screamed more loudly since Brown took over, it's been incompetence in department after department, whether it's the fault of the minister in charge or not. 25 million families' details going missing was just the straw that broke the camel's back and brought it completely into the open.

Moreover, when there has been an opportunity to move leftwards and where the public would certainly support it, they've decided it would be too dangerous. Everyone and their mother told them to nationalise Northern Rock, including the Economist and the Financial Times for God's sake, while the Conservatives hadn't got a clue what to do, let alone a policy. Instead Brown and Darling asked Goldman Sachs to come up with a solution, and amazingly, it involves the taxpayer keeping all the liabilities while the City will reap any of the eventual benefits. It took the Tories to propose a tax on non-doms before Labour did anything, then it backed down over the capital gains tax rise, instead of excluding those who were selling their businesses, which would have brought down the entrepreneur ire. Martin Kettle in his companion piece says that no one is talking about further crime crackdowns. Where on earth has he been this week?

We need to provide a stronger narrative about the overall purpose of a Labour government and the direction it wishes to take the country in.

But doesn't that just say it all? After 10 years, what has been the purpose of a Labour government? Or, what has been the point of a Labour government that contains such deadwood and flotsam as Hazel Blears, who doesn't seem intelligent enough to even have joined the Conservatives, or Tessa Jowell, who didn't know about her husband and the mortgages on her house but is the Olympics minister in control of however many billions being spent on a 2-week long sports day? The best thing Alan Milburn ever did was decide to spend more time with his family. When these were the people responsible for bringing the party to its current state, why do they think that they have the solution, or that we should listen to them? It used to be enough to frighten the voters with "think what will happen if the Tories get in!", but the obvious reply to that now is, how would we know the difference?

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